The expansion of the cult of the goddess Isis throughout the Mediterranean world demonstrates the widespread appeal of Egyptian religion in the Greco-Roman period. In this monograph, Ashby focuses on an oft-neglected population in studies of this phenomenon: Nubian worshipers. Through examination of prayer inscriptions and legal agreements engraved on temple walls, as well as Ptolemaic royal decrees and temple imagery, Ashby sheds new light on the involvement of Nubians in the Egyptian temples of Lower Nubia, and further draws comparisons between Nubian cultic practices and the Meroitic royal funerary cult.
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Evidence of Nubian activity in the Egyptian temples of Lower Nubia spans a period of more than one thousand years: from a bark stand dedicated by the Kushite king Taharqa (690-644 BCE) to Nubian prayer inscriptions engraved in the mid-fifth century CE. Nubian priests, administrators, and worshippers were intimately involved in the hierarchy of Egyptian temples in Lower Nubia. For this first time, this book considers all Nubian prayer inscriptions – written in Demotic, Meroitic, and Greek – to reveal that Nubian piety at Philae occurred in three discrete phases in which very different groups of Nubians arrived at Philae to perform rites.
Chapter one describes the Lower Nubian kings who arrived at Philae bearing tithes as decreed by Ptolemaic rulers who conquered Lower Nubia. Chapter two describes the annexation of Philae and Dakka by the rulers of Meroe who defended the temples militarily while supplying them with royal donations of gold. Meroitic royal cartouches at Philae and Dakka attest to the unfettered access obtained during this period. Of particular interest is the Feast of Entry, which exhibits many similarities to Meroitic royal funerary rites, performed by members of one Nubian family attested for eight generations at Philae and Dakka. Chapter three describes the priests who served the Blemmye kings in the fourth century CE, the last worshippers at the temples of Philae, whose rites were performed for Blemmye gods in addition to Isis and Osiris.
This book argues that the enduring religious presence of Nubian worshippers, over a period of one thousand years, profoundly influenced the unique rites performed at the temples of Philae and Dakka, in addition to introducing the worship of Nubian gods into the temple cult. Drawing on comparanda from the Meroitic religious sphere, this book presents a complete overview of Nubian religion as practiced in the temples of Philae and Dakka.